INDIANAPOLISOn Monday, Assistant Democratic Leader Eddie Melton (D-Gary) offered several amendments to the state budget, House Bill 1001. 

Two of his amendments took language from his Senate Bill (SB) 334. The first would have immediately raised the minimum wage to $10, then to $15 by 2027, and the second would have removed a state statute restricting local governments from raising their own minimum wage above the national rate.

“In 2021, it is simply not feasible for an individual to live on $7.25 an hour. With even one dependent to care for, a Hoosier making this amount would fall below the poverty line and be unable to afford rent on a two-bedroom apartment,” Sen. Melton said. “My amendments would have begun addressing our low minimum wage and helped Indiana become more competitive with our neighboring states. They also would’ve granted municipalities the freedom they deserve to set their own minimum wage. Localities that have the power to raise their rates shouldn’t be barred by the state from making that decision.”

Sen. Melton also offered amendments to restore funding for mental health and addiction, increase funding for Visually Impaired Preschool Services (VIPS) and increase Direct Service Providers (DSP) wages to $15 in fiscal year 2023. 

“There were several important items that were not addressed this session, and it’s disappointing that my effort to amend language into the budget to address those issues were rejected,” Sen. Melton said. “So many of our residents struggle with mental health and addiction, and now is not the time to make cuts to the agencies that deal with those issues. 

“I also worked to increase funding for Indiana’s VIPS and give a salary bump to our DSPs, who provide essential support to Hoosier with disabilities, long-term care patients and others in need of care, in fiscal year 2023. Our two-year budget should always prioritize Hoosiers in need and work to provide them with the increased support to be successful.

Sen. Melton offered amendments to increase funding for Indiana food banks and raise the cigarette tax to $1.

“Our food banks were hit hard over the last year as the need for food assistance increased due to the pandemic. This budget year offered the perfect opportunity to increase the stagnant $300,000 in funding that food banks have received over the past ten years to a more adequate amount. In a time when our food banks have stepped up to help thousands of hungry residents get food, it’s shameful that the General Assembly failed to increase support for them and provide meaningful assistance to our struggling families during this pandemic.

“I’m also disappointed that we missed an opportunity to collect more state revenue by increasing the cigarette tax to $1. By making this increase, we stood to generate over $266M in funds which could be directed to any number of programs, projects and items in need of additional funding in our state.”